Its a Big, Fat, Corporate Rock World

Photo by Jeanne RicePART 1 Well, it's official: we've lost the fight to keep our culture. The cynical, old-school punk rocker inside us is truly revolted that this year's Warped Tour (which is eschewing OC in favor of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum) is being sponsored by none other than—get this—Target. Wahiawa-?Target? Warped Tour? But the reality, though, is that the bargain-hunting homebodies we are love filling our baskets with Target goodies—or, Tar-zhay, as we pronounce it—whilst showing off our new stainless-steel shower caddy. The deal might at first seem very not-cool, but you gotta admit, there's nothing un-cool about finding quality merchandise at low, low prices. It's actually a perfect pairing —every time I'm at Target, I see a guy or two sporting green hair, a Vandals T-shirt, and a perplexed look on his face as he weighs the differences between Tide and Surf detergents. Besides, these megafests don't fund themselves, y'know, just like a punker's dirty laundry won't get clean in its own mosh-pit stank. Target has been marketing to younger buyers for the past five years, licensing such brands as Mossimo, so the Big Red Circles planted on the Warped Tour shouldn't come as such a shock. What are we losing? Nothing, really. The Vans Warped Tour Presented by Target Stores (the official name—catchy, isn't it?) is not an underground punk festival—it's a slickly packaged rebellion parents can buy for their kids. The surf, skate, snowboarding, hard-punkin' crowd started making money a long time ago and reveled in it. I'm not blaming Target for co-opting our culture; that's been happening since way before Nirvana made the world cool again. We now live in a society that uses old Stooges songs to sell beer. I'll be glad to see safety-pinned 15-year-olds with Exploited patches on their jackets leave the—what was that thing called again?—Vans Warped Tour Presented by Target Stores, eager to know more about the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs. And what's so wrong with that? (Arrissia Owen)

PART 2 There we were last summer at the No Doubt show, grousing over the fact that our LowballAss asses were firmly planted in the newly corporatized environs of the Amphitheater Formerly Known as Irvine Meadows, when singer A. Jay Popoff of opening band Lit stepped up to the mic and blurted that he was "gonna leave for a shot of Jgermeister." "Well now, wasn't that a bit of gratuitous ass-kissing," we thought, since the German liquor company is one of Lit's major sponsors (the OC-bred band also has a plugging deal with 1-800-COLLECT). So it's a pretty cozy relationship, all right, but until we did South By Southwest a couple of weeks back, we hadn't fully realized just how cozy Jgermeister requires their bands to be—really, we're talking some serious foreplay here. "Can you party like a rock star?" asked a flier being distributed at the Jgermeister booth during the Austin, Texas, confab's trade show. "Since 1994, Jgermeister has added music to its act by sponsoring bands. From local acts to national acts, Jgermeister bands help spread the word about Jgermeister. We are proud of our bands, many of whom we have watched grow and graduate from their mothers' basements to local bars and national arenas. How does Jgermeister sponsor a band? Well, once we decide we dig their scene [italics ours—love that oh-so-hip retro lingo!], we supply them with giveaway items where legal. Items are branded with the Jgermeister logo and the name of the band. From posters to guitar picks, T-shirts to hats, we cover our bands. In return, we simply ask for a little love . . . mentioning Jgermeister between and during sets, imbibing a shot onstage, hanging a few banners, or wearing a T-shirt." Sigh. Really, playing in corporate-named venues and going on corporate-named concert tours is one thing, but having to plug a brand-name product from the stage is a whole new puddle o' sick (speaking of puddles o' sick, another of Jgermeister's pet bands is a combo called Ants Marching, a Dave Matthews Band "tribute" band). Lit have a new album due out later this year, and the question simmering on the back burner of our minds isn't really if the music will be any good—it's what companies Lit will be representing on the next go-round. Really, kids—there is such a thing as too much exposure. (Rich Kane)

PART 3 Styx! Bad Company! Billy Squier! Joe Stark, whoever the hell Joe Stark is! That's the lineup scheduled for June 6 at the Amphitheater Formerly Known as Irvine Meadows, which, as summit meetings of corporate bands and corporate arenas goes, looks to be this summer's Yalta. But what struck us most was that a portion of this bill's ticket sales will go to benefit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the relatively new Mistake By the Lake in Cleveland, Ohio, that nobody ever goes to. Since none of these bands has a prayer of getting voted into the hall on artistic merit, might the benefit be their way of paying a tithe to ensure their rock canonization? We're just asking! Then again, if Billy Joel can get voted into the hall, anything's possible. . . . The Styx/Bad Company show aside, are you getting all hyped up for this year's summer season at the Amphitheater Formerly Known as Irvine Meadows (okay, okay, Verizon Wireless) yet? Well, better make sure you take the right offramp. SFX, the self-proclaimed "world's largest producer and marketer of live entertainment," has announced that the name of its newest outdoor amphitheater—scheduled to open in May near San Antonio, Texas—will be called . . . Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. So if you start seeing longhorn cattle and a noticeable lack of cars with surfboards strapped on top, that's a pretty good sign you need to flip a U-turn and drive west for 20 hours. (RK)

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